On the choice not to give birth
By Silas Nyanchwani
My buddy, Mwangi Khimani yesterday asked, given what you know now, the experiences you have had, if you were to be given a choice on whether to be born or not, would you have applied to be born?
My answer was a definite NO. Whereas I live my life as an incurable pessimist, I harbour in my hearts a perfect, “WAKANDA” type of a world and some naive optimism that things can get better despite evidence to the contrary.
When I see young children, toddlers being exposed to the pollution in town as their mothers use them to beg, my heart bleeds. When we burn people in churches, my heart bleeds. When police shoot innocent protesters, my heart bleeds. When young people die, like in the last three weeks, I have lost two of my former schoolmates at a fairly young age, my heart cries. When I see sick people in the hospital, people involved in accidents, people involved in a terror attack, victims of domestic violence, rape, pollution, corruption and what have you, I ask God WHY?
Over the weekend, some lady was interviewed by my lady Victoria Rubadiri. The lady said she wants to remain childless for the rest of her life. It is one of those concepts most people can’t wrap their heads around. That is why she was insulted pretty badly.
Last year, the New Yorker Magazine did a very good profile of the South African philosopher, David Benatar, dubbed as the most pessimist philosopher in the world. He is an anti-natalist: People who believe that life is so bad, so painful, that human beings should stop having children for reasons of compassion.
“While good people go to great lengths to spare their children from suffering, few of them seem to notice that the one (and only) guaranteed way to prevent all the suffering of their children is not to bring those children into existence in the first place,” Benatar wrote in his 2006 book, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence.” (As quoted in the New Yorker.)
This is an idea that I once possessed. That I married and I have a daughter, I don’t how that happened. Do I regret having broken my youthful idealism creed of never marrying and giving birth? Only to an extent that I can’t afford to live without the little girl.
Anti-natalism is a choice worth thinking about. But in life, I learned at a young age never to take extremes. It is always safer to be somewhere in the middle.
As a Christian, I do believe that there is a divine pre-destination to our being on earth.
I have been to a labour ward. I saw women dragging their feet in pain, cursing and crying as the pains grew excruciatingly. I have seen them lean on walls, hang on the rails, crying that they want to die. I have heard them cry, such scary screaming, it deafens you. It is messy in the labour ward. You would wonder how a woman can ever choose to give birth again?
But they do. Our grandmothers used to pop them out like 10-13. For a corporate woman , two is more than enough, always delivered through the caesarian section, some argue because, they don’t want to tamper with the sexual lifestyle after birth.
But what makes me think there is God in all this, is fairly simple: Once a woman has held the kid in her hand, the joy, the happiness in her face, is not something science can explain. And a father who embraces the child, however poor, becomes so happy, it gives him a reason to wake up every day to ensure the young one will never sleep hungry or lack to the best of his ability.
Whether you believe in evolution or God, you discover that nature ensures that we must procreate. Women who don’t procreate are sometimes faced with complications that force doctors to compel them to give birth in order to do away with the problems. There is also the disputed “biological urge”, a craving that strikes women between 25-35, and where with or without a husband they choose to have the baby anyway. For men, the urge is not as strong, but there is a happiness that a man derives when he knows he does not fire blanks. We know couples who struggle to get a baby and the pain they go through. Men especially can be profoundly affected and society used to laugh at such men, rather stupidly.
Some may say, it is an act of selfishness, not to share our lives with others. As to live and die alone is not exactly fair. My favourite South African writer Darell Bristow Bovey once said that he has no desire to have a baby and people who tell him that he risks not bringing forth a genius like Einstein and he said chances of such are infinitesimal. Makes sense.
My advice is that to be a parent is a good thing if you embrace it. As you age, people become selfish with their time, and you will end up in the bar all alone. Whereas living alone has huge perks, but there is the need for someone to be around. You can choke. You can have a preexisting condition you didn’t know that will attack you and it helps to have family around.
To be alone can be suicidal at times. Your spouse and children remind you that you are accountable and they put checks on you. Back in the village, young men used to be encouraged to marry so as to start being responsible. When you marry, for men, your wife starts to control, you and your schedule, at least in your younger years so as to put your foot down, build a house and even start a family. That way even if you start being reckless, everything will be in order.
The same applies to women. By being married, it protects them from several risks, dangerous sex, and other attendant risks that come with it.
So marriage and childbirth have both biological, social and moral imperatives worth pursuing.
My main reason is that after 45, you will need a good spouse to spend the lonely moments together. You need children somewhere in school to remind you and give you a reason to live.
It gives a sense of balance, a sense of being, and the first line of defense against the vagaries of old age, such as disease, and other problems. No one can protect you better than your family if you have been kind to it. Your parents and siblings may have the obligation, but it is your progeny that will have the ultimate obligation to ensure that you can have your pampers on when you start crapping on yourself.
Sasa enda lunch, mimi wacha nikule ma airburger hapa.